Mother bear killed after returning to Whitehorse

Conservation officers were forced to kill a mother bear when she returned to eating garbage just weeks after she was relocated outside town. The fate of her two four-month old cubs hasn't been decided yet.

Conservation officers were forced to kill a mother bear when she returned to eating garbage just weeks after she was relocated outside town.

The fate of her two four-month old cubs hasn’t been decided yet.

Conservation officer Ryan Hennings was somber when he talked about what happened Tuesday morning. It’s clear this was the last thing anyone wanted.

The sow and her two cubs were moved about two weeks ago after they were found rummaging through garbage in Copper Ridge.

Hennings said the family was relocated about 30 kilometres away, past the Yukon River.

That’s a shorter distance than usual, he said, but biologists were hoping that would make it easier on the young cubs and the river would discourage them from coming back.

They were wrong. This week the animals were back eating garbage at nearly the same spot as before.

A tip first came in at 1 a.m. Monday morning. The bears were seen in the Takhini North subdivision.

That afternoon a second call came in, this time from the McIntyre subdivision.

Around midnight Tuesday morning complaints came in from the Copper Ridge area near Winze Place and Drift Drive.

That’s the same area where the bears were initially caught and relocated from.

“She was willing to take her cubs this distance to come back right to this exact area,” Hennings said.

“It tells us A) she’s comfortable and B) how important this food source was to her.”

Conservation officers weren’t able to find the bears when they first went out, but at about 6 a.m. Tuesday morning more complaints from the area started coming in.

An officer went back out to look.

“When the officer was looking for her a resident opened his garage. That activity spooked the bear and it ran out of the backyard and around the side of the house when the officer was there,” Hennings said.

On two separate occasions the officer hit the bear with a rubber bullet in an effort to scare her off. But she almost immediately came back and started going through the garbage again.

“Because of the behaviour the bear was displaying at the time he was forced to put the bear down,” Hennings said.

By 5:30 p.m. both baby bears had been captured after taking refuge in a tree and were brought to the Yukon Wildlife Preserve for assessment.

Their fate is still up in the air.

These are wild bears. They no longer have their mom to take care of them. The wildlife preserve isn’t equipped to deal with them in the long term.

“The department’s veterinarian staff will assess their condition and we will make some sort of decisions about what condition they are in, if we can find them a care facility to go to or not, and go from there,” Hennings said.

There are really only two possibilities, he said. One is, provided they’re healthy, to find a facility that wants them.

“If not, they may have to be put down.”

The Yukon Wildlife Preserve does not accept carnivores like black bears, Hennings said. They may be able to hold the cubs for a short time, but eventually the babies will need a home Outside if they’re going to survive.

“They’re wild, they’re not going to want to be handled by people,” Hennings said. “So we’re in a tough spot, and it’s a tough spot we tried desperately to avoid two weeks ago when we relocated her.”

The incident serves as another reminder to residents to take measures to prevent bears from getting into garbage, said Hennings.

“This is a prime example of how quickly a bear can go down this road, and the lengths once they do that they will go to to return and continue this behaviour.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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